Mosin-Nagant Model 1891/30: Russia's World War II Sniper Rifle | HistoryNet MENU

Mosin-Nagant Model 1891/30: Russia’s World War II Sniper Rifle

By Jon Guttman
3/4/2011 • Gear, MH Tools

Russia made more than 300,000 Model 1891/30 sniper rifles during the war. (Illustration by Gregory Proch)
Russia made more than 300,000 Model 1891/30 sniper rifles during the war. (Illustration by Gregory Proch)

The Mosin-Nagant Model 1891 bolt-action rifle combined a simple design by Russian Captain Sergei Mosin with a five-round internal box magazine designed by Belgians Émile and Léon Nagant. Entering Russian service in 1892, it remained the standard long arm of the Russian infantry through the Russo-Japanese War, World War I and, in its improved 1930 Soviet version, World War II.

In 1932 the Red Army pulled Mosin-Nagants from assembly lines to modify them as sniper rifles. Gunsmiths reconfigured the bolt handle to make room for 3.5–4x telescopic sights; raised the foresight a millimeter, allowing a sniper to use open sights on targets out to 600 meters; and lightened the trigger pull to a range of 4.4 to 5.3 pounds. Snipers still complained about the weapon’s excessive length and weight, as well as its poor quality wooden stocks, which often warped during weather changes.

Despite its shortcomings, the Model 1891/30 was rugged, reliable and accurate, its average minute of arc ranging from a 1.5 to below 1 (less than an inch over 100 meters). It proved murderously successful. In fact, German snipers reportedly preferred captured Mosin-Nagants to their own Mauser Karabiner 98k rifles. Although the Soviets also adapted the semiautomatic Tokarev SVT-40 for sniper use, it proved less accurate than the proven Mosin-Nagant, which ultimately eclipsed it. Russia produced some 330,000 Model 1891/30 snipers between 1941 and 1943. These remained in Soviet use until replaced by the Dragunov SVD in 1963.

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